The Greatest Store in the World? The greatest Christmas drama in the world, more like.
Some people love animated tale The Snowman or watch Love Actually on a loop during December, but for me Christmas is summed up by one drama and one drama alone: a virtually forgotten, almost impossible to track down, late 90s children’s drama called The Greatest Store in the World.
I can take or leave Elf and his maple syrup spaghetti and I can let Frozen go. I don’t even need George Bailey to tell me It’s a Wonderful Life – I already know because The Greatest Store in the World exists.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I don’t blame you. I think it first aired on BBC1 during Christmas 1999. But I can’t be sure, I was only 10. What I do know is that I live in a perpetual state of confusion because Greatest Store isn’t recognised as a Christmas classic.
It’s a tale about an unconventional family who live in a van called Jezebel – or at least they do until it blows up on one of the last days of the school term and they end up camping out in a swanky department store over Christmas. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to admit I know most of the words (“We’ll price up how pricey they are then, and if, the pricey is righty we might buy one”).
Greatest Store is a heart-warming 75 minutes that remind us what’s important at Christmas. There’s not a smidgen of consumerism, greed or ungratefulness and there’s not even that much schmaltz. It stars plucky young girls who stand up for themselves, save the day and love Terry’s chocolate orange. There’s a little romance, a lot of kindness, buckets of forgiveness. And it also stars S Club 7, which for ten-year-old me was an obvious plus.
But the real draw? It only stars the current holder of the Tardis keys himself, Peter Capaldi.
The Doctor stars as Mr Whiskers (real name: Brian) a doorman with “a small rainforest” on the top of his upper lip. Why The Greatest Store isn’t being repeated on TV this Christmas is beyond me. Doctor Who fans, aged 9 or 90, would want to see Peter Capaldi as a grouchy doorman with an impressive moustache. I know they would.
So here’s my plea, BBC. The nation deserves another chance to see The Greatest Store in the World.